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ESA Says Preservation of Old Games Encourages Hacking Amid Dispute With Digital Rights Group

April 12, 2015 Written by Zarmena Khan

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The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) are embroiled in a dispute over preservation of older video games and the use of modified consoles for research.

The EFF is seeking an exemption from section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s anti-circumvention provisions, stating that it hampers research and causes problems for player communities, museums, archives and researchers. Section 1201 of the Act prevents modification of games to keep them playable after their servers are shut down. EFF staff attorney Mitch Stoltz said:

Thanks to server shutdowns, and legal uncertainty created by Section 1201, their objects of study and preservation may be reduced to the digital equivalent of crumbling papyrus in as little as a year. That’s why an exemption from the Copyright Office is needed.

The ESA disagrees, however, claiming that such an exemption would send out a message that hacking and piracy is lawful. 

Because permitting circumvention of the access controls on video game consoles will increase piracy, significantly reduce users’ options to access copyrighted works on video game consoles, and decrease the value of these works for copyright owners, ESA requests that the Register deny the proposed exemption.

A significant and practical consequence of granting the proposed exemption, which should not be ignored, is that users would wrongly believe that they can traffic in circumvention tools to hack their video games or engage in wholesale reproduction and distribution of the video game software.

The ESA went on to say that researchers should utilize cloud computing for research as opposed to hacked PlayStation consoles.

You can read EFF’s full note on the issue on its website here and ESA’s response here.

Who do you think has the correct stance?

[Source: EFF, USCO, GameSpot, IGN]